Samyang 8mm f/3.5 CS II Fisheye Lens Review

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THE OVERVIEW

Website : Samyang 8mm F3.5 UMC Fish Eye CS II
Get from eBay : Click here
Disclaimer : Fat affiliate link above, read my disclosure message here
Price : About USD 250 for new (as of Feb 2017)

Build
Feels rugged, but rather plastic. Not weather sealed.
Optics
Decently good optical quality at around f/8.
Mechanics
Not much moving parts that can break.
Value
Cheap ok-good lens!
Usefulness
For a few super ultra wide landscape and unique shots.
Overall
Cheap interesting lens, why not?

SOMETHING LOOKS FISHY

Looking to do something different? Try capturing the world through the eyes of a fish. Fisheye lenses are kind of extreme. Some people love it to bits, some hate it to shreds. But one thing we can all agree on – the fisheye offers a different perspective. Even if you do not like the fish, you can always de-fish with Photoshop and get a regular ultra wide angle photo.

That said, fisheye lenses are generally not cheap. Definitely a leap of faith for those who wants to jump into the fisheye world. But there is always an odd one in the crowd. The Samyang (or Rokinon) Fisheye lens costs less than half than the rest of the competitors. But is it any good?

THE SPECS AND WORTHY CONTENDERS

There are quite a lot of fisheye lenses around. But for the sake of comparison against the “big brothers”, I shall pit the Samyang against 2 of the competitors – The Nikon 10.5mm f/2.8 DX Fisheye and Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L USM Fisheye.

NikonCanonSamyang
Price (USD)About 750About 1000About 250
Filter Size (mm)NANANA
Weight (grams)303542420
Elements10 elements in 7 groups14 elements in 11 groups10 elements in 7 groups
SensorCropFull frame, but only fills the frame at 15mmCrop
Close Focus14 cm15 cm30 cm
Angle of View180°180°180°
Max/Min Aperture2.8 / 224 / 223.5 / 22

If you want a better fisheye, go for Nikon’s fast f/2.8 fisheye or go for Canon’s good glass. But you have to pay a price for it. Priced at only a quarter of Canon’s cannon, the Samyang sure looks suspiciously fishy. But I do think that it is a seriously good buy for people on a budget.

CONSTRUCT AND FIRST IMPRESSIONS

The Samyang Fisheye looks pretty decent at first sight, and my “feel test” goes – Plastic and rubber. Not bad, rather solid in hand. At least I don’t think it will break if you knock it against the wall.

The CS II is an upgrade from the earlier version, and it now comes with a removable lens hood. But really, I don’t think it makes much of a difference when you remove the hood. In fact, I will prefer the lens hood to be permanently fixed – Simply because the lens cover is unique to the hood.

Detachable hood. Just don’t lose it.

If you lose either the hood or cover, that’s it. A standard lens cap will not fit the Fisheye, and looking for a replacement is going to cost you a lot more. Probably not worth it for a lens priced as such. Luckily, the lens hood seems to be quite secure and does not come off easily.

That aside, the focus ring needs a bit of force, but is rather smooth otherwise… and the aperture ring clicks in place. Yes, a manual aperture ring in the digital age. How rare. There are no other knobs and buttons to worry about, and rest of the construct seems decent enough. Except for the lack of weather sealing.

AUTO-FOCUS

Auto focus does not exist on this lens – This Samyang fisheye is a fully manual lens. That may sound like bad news, but in actual fact, you probably don’t even need to adjust the focus ring. Yep, this lens has so much depth of field that almost everything is in focus. Even if your turn that focus ring, the difference is nearly unnoticeable.

Just keep the “general” rule of thumb – Landscape, turn to infinity, 30mm to 50mm for anything closer. There is really nothing much to fuss about being on manual focus on this lens.

OPTICS & GALLERY

NOT FULL FRAME

Below is a photo taken with my Nikon D800E. Yes, this is not a full frame lens. The lens did not cover the entire area of the sensor, and thus that black ring.

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Nikon D800E with Samyang 8mm at F11

As you might have guessed it, this lens is still going to suffer from some vignetting on a crop sensor camera. But the optics are decent, crisp and sharp. Till date, I did not have any issues with ghosting and flaring as well.

So if the depth of field is of no importance, does it still make sense to “pump” the aperture? It appears that the answer is yes. When shooting at F3.5, this lens only produces a decently acceptable photo. But as you step down the aperture, it hits the “sweet spot” and you have to see the photos below to judge for yourself.

AFTER SOME EDITING…

The below photos are all taken with my Nikon D800E, cropped and edited in Photoshop.

_DSC4382

_DSC4352

_DSC3985

Sorry to those who are looking for a quick causal lens, the Samyang Fisheye is not for you. The true beauty of the lens only seem to come after you put in the effort to edit the photos. Of course, the distortion cannot be 100% fixed, but that is also what makes the fisheye so distinct and unique.

DISTORTION, SHARPNESS AND IMAGE QUALITY

This is a small section for you eagle eyed folks who wants to check the distortion and stuff. Click on the image below to visit my Flickr, and view the full sized 36 megapixel if you want.

Samyang 8mm at f/3.5
Wide open At f/3.5
Samyang 8mm at f/5.6
At f/5.6
Samyang 8mm at f/8
Seems to hit the sweet spot at f/8
Samyang 8mm at f/11
Still sharp at f/11
Samyang 8mm at f/22
At f/22

At wide open f/3.5, this lens is just mushy. But as you stop it down, it starts to become more decent gradually. The sweet spot seems to hit at around f/8 to f/11.

CONCLUSION

Do I love this lens? Not really. This is not a lens for everyday use, and requires a lot of post processing effort. But a decent fisheye lens at this kind of price is a steal… so I don’t have any reason to hate it either. I bought this lens out of curiosity, and I just wanted to try catching skyscrapers in a single frame. The Samyang sure did the job, but only after some editing in Photoshop.

For the casual photographers, I will not recommend this lens. There is really nothing much this lens can offer you. For those who are looking something different, this lens just might be for you. Don’t expect too much out of it though. It is a lens that works ok-good, and that’s it. There is nothing too magical about this lens… and it does not smell of fish.

THE GOOD

  • A good and affordable lens into the fisheye photography world.
  • Decently good optics.
  • Rather smooth mechanics. Not much moving parts – will probably last long.

THE BAD

  • Not weather sealed.
  • Cannot attach any filters.
  • Not a full frame lens.
  • Post-process mayhem.


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